Notable Houston figures to honor in Women’s History Month
March celebrates Women’s History Month in honor of women and the ongoing achievements in society towards their rights in various fields of work.
Women’s, gender and sexuality studies director Elizabeth Gregory reflects on a time when women were refused opportunities in civic life until around the last century. She emphasized Harris County’s shift in women’s societal duties including voting after suffrage was granted in 1920.
Since then, Houston has seen achievements from politicians such as Barbara Jordan and Kathy Whitmire to artists and intellectuals like Lynn Eusan and Selena Quintanilla, all having shown contributions to the groundbreaking progress for women throughout history.
Barbara Jordan left a legacy as an attorney and the first Black woman elected into the Texas state senate as well as in congress.
During her time in office, she worked on women’s rights laws, co-sponsored benefits for housewives, worked to pass a minimum wage law for farm workers and broke numerous barriers as a congresswoman. Her work is recognized throughout the nation, even receiving the presidential medal of freedom.
Kathy Whitmire is acknowledged as the first woman to serve as mayor of Houston from 1982 to 1991. The UH alumna, influenced by the women’s movement and disagreements with the previous administration, worked to run the city efficiently. Whitmire was respected for fulfilling several economic campaign promises for working-class citizens.
Lynn Eusan became a notable figure at the University for advocating change on campus during the civil rights movement.
While studying journalism and education, she assumed many roles at the school, including being crowned UH’s first African American homecoming queen in 1968. Eusan’s passions and activism led to her co-founding the African American studies program at UH.
Selena Quintanilla rose in the Tejano music scene with her music, energetic performance style and fashion. Her sounds were popularized by many Houstonians, especially Mexican American communities. Her sold-out performances often won the hearts of many and influenced a variety of today’s artists.
“Women’s history means documenting both the unusual accomplishments of individual women and also the ongoing essential work done by women in every home, every day,” Gregory said. “Much of that is care work, in addition to artistry and skill—in song, cooking, fashion, and many crafts, and business management of diverse kinds.”